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Thursday, January 01, 2009

QPR Snippets: QPR Looking for First FA Cup Win in Eight Years....Bircham Retires...Ex-QPR Sappleton Loaned to Oxford...Nick Ward Profile/Interview

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Factoid, I was unaware of!: From the Telegraph: Queens Park Rangers v Burnley, 3pm..."Stat Attack: Remarkably, QPR have not won an FA Cup tie since January 2001...." Telegraph

Kilburn Times/Ben Kosky - Birch hangs up his boots
FORMER QPR midfielder and Times columnist Marc Bircham has been forced to retire from the game due to an ongoing ankle injury.
Bircham, who is only 30, has been plagued by the ankle problem since the start of the season and is currently finalising an agreement to terminate his contract with League One side Yeovil Town.
Wembley-born Bircham, who hails from a family of Rangers fanatics, made only 18 appearances for Yeovil after leaving Loftus Road on a free transfer in the summer of 2007.
He began his career with Millwall and helped them to win promotion before dropping down a division to realise his boyhood dream and play for QPR - gaining promotion back to the second flight in 2004.
Bircham, who is due to complete his UEFA coaching licence later this year, has previously said that his remaining ambition is to return to Loftus Road as manager one day. Kilburn Times

Ex-QPR Youth Player, Ricky Sappleton Loaned to Non-League Oxford United
Oxford United Official Site - United snap up young Fox
United have strengthened their squad with the loan signing of striker Ricky Sappleton from Leicester City ahead of the New Year's Day home game against Salisbury City.
Nineteen year old Ricky is a Jamaican born forward who began his career at QPR and after trials with Liverpool and Middlesbrough the highly rated striker joined The Foxes in the summer of 2007. He made one senior appearance last season. He scored his first senior goal this season while on loan at Bournemouth.
The deal is initially a one month loan and Ricky is eligible for tomorrow's match" Oxford United

The Age/Michael Lynch re Nick Ward "A top performer"
- MELBOURNE Victory midfielder Nick Ward knows time is running out if he wants to make the sort of mark his undoubted ability should enable him to.
- The West Australian, who turns 24 in March, endured an horrific, injury-plagued 2008 that culminated in the biggest disappointment of his career, missing selection in Australia's soccer squad for the Beijing Olympics.
- But his stunning long-range strike that brought Victory level with Sydney in the 3-2 win over the Sky Blues last Saturday night was a reminder of what he is capable of to the growing number of sceptics. That it came four days before the end of a year he wants to forget is, he hopes, a harbinger of better things in 2009.
- Whether Ward spends most of this year in the navy blue of Melbourne is a totally different question, as he has yet to begin negotiations over a new deal.
- Ward signed a one-year deal this time last year when he returned from an ill-fated spell in England. He was then made the club's first "junior marquee player", a status that allowed him to be paid $150,000 a year outside Victory's salary cap.
- It is not unfair to say he has rarely looked worthy of that status, but, as he explains, his ineffectiveness has not been entirely his fault.
- "Injuries do happen in football. I don't think it makes me any less of a player," he says.
- "I am not playing regularly at the moment so it's hard to contribute. But everyone's in the same boat here, we are a squad, it's not just one person."
- The list of ailments the tall, slim midfielder has sustained would fill a doctor's treatment diary. He spent a fruitless 22 months in England, firstly at London Championship club Queens Park Rangers and then struggling lower-division side Brighton, which took him on loan from Rangers.
- "When I was at QPR I went away with the Olympic team, played in Lebanon in 2007, and did a hernia. I had surgery on that and that fixed the problem," he says.
- "But then I went away with the Olympic team again and I kept playing and travelling and it developed like an osteitis pubis thing, and I have just been managing that in the past year or so.
- "I probably could have done with a break when the Olympic campaign was on, but I was pushing for that team and so I didn't really get the break I needed."
- Ward had regained fitness by the time last year's pre-season cup took place in July and August and, having been dumped from the Olympic squad by Graham Arnold, was desperate to prove the Olyroo boss, and any other doubters, wrong.
- Then he was laid low by another serious injury, this time to his calf. "The groins haven't been too much of a problem, it's the calf injury that I got before the start of the season which was a funny one, because it was the walking muscles. It turned out I had torn a tendon rather than the muscles," he says.
- "I felt quite good in the pre-season. I played in the pre-season cup and then that week before the Sydney game (round one) I tore my calf, and then re-aggravated it. I got back for the Perth game in round seven, but when you get back at that sort of time you lose fitness and the team was flying as well. That's been frustrating for me."
- Coming to terms with the Olympic snub was another major challenge. "I was pretty disappointed, I had been a part of that team the whole time, for three years, and I thought I had contributed enough to warrant a spot in that side. I know I had a few injuries during the camp, but I thought Arnie would have had the confidence to know I had the experience. I know how he plays, but he went with the players he wanted to go with."
- Whether he starts tonight against Queensland or is used off the bench, Ward believes he has plenty to offer although he knows that, with his 24th birthday in March, he is entering the prime period of his playing career.
- "That's something that I want to establish, being a regular player, and that's going to come down to a decision (on whether he re-signs with Melbourne) for me as well," he says.
- "I feel I am good enough to be a first XI player. I haven't actually sat down with Ernie (Merrick) or Gary (Cole). I am just focusing on playing well and that will sort itself out. I would prefer to speak to Melbourne first before anybody.
- "Europe is another thing I have to think about as well. I definitely would love to go back and play in Europe at some stage of my career, whether it's this year or next depends on how the body is feeling and on how I finish the season as well.
- "My body is fine. I feel great, the calf is fine, that's the main thing and I am managing my groins, it's a matter of playing regularly." The Age

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